A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME…

would be a thorn in my side–if its first name was Charlie.

I’m well aware that Charlie Rose interviews interesting and often brilliant people.  We’re not talking Dr. Phil here.  Or even Oprah.  Rose invites really intelligent people who deal with matters that don’t necessarily make the headlines.  True, he also does his fair amount of headline hunting.  But even there he chooses people and perspectives that the major networks often ignore.

This realization makes it harder to hate him.  And more difficult to flip the channel.  But I just can’t stand Charlie’s interview style.

That, I really, really hate.  Rather than dig into his guests’ knowledge of their specialty, Rose insists on showing how much he understands about that subject.  I know he’s learned a lot over the years, that his researchers do a fine job, and that it’s his program.  Still, it’s the guests I’m interested in, not his know-it-all pretentiousness.

Charlie often won’t let a guest finish his or her thought or sentence before breaking in and finishing it for them.  I guess the risk you take when you invite really bright people onto your television show is their desire to speak for themselves.

And interruptions aren’t the worst of it.  All too many times, Rose won’t even bother with a question but simply asserts (often emphatically) what he believes to be in his guests’ minds.  Recently I watched an interview with the winner of The Masters Golf Tournament.  Apparently the player was behind heading into the final nine holes.  Charlie leans across his plain round table, arm outstretched, and pushes his horse face into the middle of the screen while telling the guy (and I paraphrase) But you knew you would nail all those birdies on the back nine.  You knew it, you had to!

A puzzled look crossed the golfer’s face and you could almost see him getting ready to say huh?– but then he simply responded, (again I paraphrase) I had no idea at all about what was going to happen.  I just tried to play one hole at a time.

If this had been an exception rather than the rule, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed.  Only I find this two-part crime, especially annoying.  First, stealing the punch line of a guest’s story is remarkably ungenerous.  And I just don’t believe in clairvoyance.  Over and over.  You always know what Charlie believes is in his invitee’s mind.  Or what the guest plans to do, or what he knows about his or her field of expertise.  I guess it ain’t called The Charlie Rose Show for nothing.

And woe to those who participate in a panel discussion on the program.  I may not be the best facilitator on the planet, but the golden rule is to give people an opportunity to participate.  And, if they are reluctant to do that themselves, it’s the moderator’s job to include them.

No golden rule for Rose.  I’ve seen discussions where he’ll let one person remain silent for the entire conversation until, as an afterthought, Charlie will ask a quick question to that person, then switch to another before his afterthought even finishes answering.  I’m sure it’s his producers who create the gathering, but I’m equally sure that Rose okays them.  He clearly has a hierarchy of people he’s interested in during his group presentations–or this form of rude is his payback to all the mean kids in high school who used to ignore him.

From where I sit, if you invite someone onto your television program you really ought to talk to them.  Not Rose.  Even Bill Maher, a snotty snoid if there ever was one, makes sure to let all his guests speak.  Even those who actually have nothing to say.

Finding something good and intellectually engaging on television is hard enough.  Most of the people Charlie invites are never on the tube anywhere else.  Where else can you hear world renowned physicists discuss the Higgs boson particle discovery?  Or modern architecture?  Or unusual museum exhibitions?  Or any non-pop culture phenomena that’s actually interesting to people with curiosity and want to expand their knowledge.  If Charlie lets them.  The one interview show that doesn’t cater to Kardashian followers and it gets smothered by an out-of-control ego.

Back in the day, I always believed that Dick Cavett’s best interview would have been with a mirror.  Certainly the one that he’d be most interested in.  Today I’d rather watch Cavett and Rose interview each other at the same time.

Shame on me for blood lust.

There are those that are wise. Then there are those that are otherwise. ~ Arushi Nayar

11 thoughts on “A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME…

  1. Like you, I often watched Dick Cavett and sometimes watch Charlie Rose. Back in the day, I originally thought Cavett was more cerebral than other interviewers but then realized that was only because he kept telling us so.

    Neither one are like watching David Frost break down Nixon over a period of time, and Frost was clearly a ratings hound. The 60 Minutes crew have shown occasional brilliance over the decades but one wonders if they’re capable of that kind of work, why don’t we see more of it?

    It always seemed to me Rose’s expression at the beginning of his shows indicated that he knew precisely how the interview would go, that there would be no surprises for him, and therefore no surprises for his audience. But I must say that no one could cut the legs off an uncooperative guest like Dick Cavett. He would begin to ask more and more inane questions showing he had totally given up on his guest and the segment. Once I saw him ask a man how he knotted his tie, and another if he’d ever read “Winnie the Pooh?” He was a master at the lost interview, but we don’t tune in for that every night.

    Kent

    • I am almost at the point of not watching Charlie Rose anymore. I just lost the last thought of the Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow at The New York Historical Society because Rose interrupted with his own ending. As many times as I tried to replay that last line, I could not get the point. I have had it with him. He is a pompous insecure jerk.

      • Martha–Second only to Rose interviewing himself in a mirror, I’d enjoy watching him interview Dick Cavett. Might be a hoot to watch them scuffle over control of the microphone. Again, Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy some of the other columns.

  2. Studs Terkel for me – active, engaged but actually interested in listening, too!

    I really enjoyed watching William F. Buckley interview, too – although he savaged people he disagreed with (including some of my more courageous friends who acually went on with him), he did it with panache – and using big words like panache!

    Bill Moyers is great, because I agree with him and who he invites.

    You, my friend….what kind of host would you make for a late night talk show with a desk and a couch? Or what would you use – a barstool? A yard chair? a hammock? a baseball bench?

    Really really good talk – what are some other examples?

  3. td–you named some good hosts tho other than moyers they are dead.

    i’d be happy standing behind a well stocked bar while my guest sat on the other side. as far as what i consider good talk, well, it’s with anyone from whom i can learn something and that would be what i’d spend my time doing. am pretty good at drawing people out cause i find it pleasurable to learn about someone and their interests and expertise. as far as subjects i’m wide open. i enjoy listening to people who really know their subject almost no matter what that subject is. ted talks are great examples and they’re all over the map vis a vis subjects.

  4. After last nights’ show, an interview with Ron Chernow, on Hamilton, Rose kept interrupted his sentences as he so often does. It is so frustrating and outrageous that I can’t stand watching his show anymore even though I really like his guests. It’s gotten to the point that I hate looking at his face. Wasn’t there a meter that counted how many times Rose interrupted his guests on each show. Rather than intelligent, he is an insecure, pompous boor.

    • Martha–Thanks for taking the time to visit. Much appreciated. I understand your frustration and share it. In my next reply to your other comment I’ll tell you what I think his best interviews might be.

      • Martha–For some reason the second comment and reply didn’t show up. I’d like to see him interview a mirror and would enjoy watching him interview Dick Cavett. Be interesting to see who wins the battle over the microphone.

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